Thursday, May 10, 2012

Marriage

One of the saddest things we have come to realize over the past 4 years working with the Tuareg people group is that marriage is seen as a temporary, discardable agreement that carries little value for them.

In the four years since we have arrived, all three of our house guards have divorced their wives and remarried to someone new. In two of the cases it was just a lack of wanting to work through miscommunications, to care for one another, to dispel rumours (the Tuaregs are known for spreading rumours and dissent) and to try to make their marriage work. They discard it like yesterdays newspaper. The other one married a 14 year old, and 4 years and two sons later when she went to visit her parents out in the village she refused to return (keeping the children with her too). For 18 months he tried to get her to come back and she refused, wanting to stay at home with her parents and away from a city and her husband.

Child marriage is a big problem in this culture. A really high percentage of child marriages end in divorce because the girl isn’t physically or emotionally mature enough yet to be a wife and to have those kinds of responsibilities. In my work at the Girls at Risk school we fight this battle often and have many discussions with parents.

This chart shows the percentage of women (currently ages 20-24) who married before the age of 18. You see the darkest blue, that is Niger and it is ranked the worst in the world for child marriages.

marriage_map

When marriages collapse in this culture it is of course always the children who suffer. (Let’s be real- this is likely the case all over the world right!) All three of these marriages had two or more children involved and the children all live with their mother now. Niger law apparently says that the mother will be the primary parent until a child reaches the age of 9, when it is then up for discussion. This doesn’t always occur if the couple remain amicable and split childcare, but if it goes before the courts this is what they uphold. Sadly enough, the women don’t work and then men rarely pay any type of childcare monies, so the children are worse off than before. The ex-wife of one of my guards lives right next to my kids school. One day I saw their oldest daughter, who is 6, running in the street, dodging cars and totally filthy. I took her home. I spoke with her father and he sadly said he couldn’t do anything since his ex-wife threatened to take him to court if he came to the girls, and yet she doesn’t pay any attention to them either. Their young baby looks malnourished and sick.

This is two of the young girls who are now living with their Mom. Leila (on the left- age 4 in this photo) is the one I pulled from traffic.

Ramadan12

Now each of these men have taken new wives and say they are just starting over. How can they forget the children they already had? One hid the fact that he remarried so quick to another young girl (who is at least 18 we are told) and is saying he is trying to hide his poverty from her family so that they won’t make fun of him. What response can we have to such worry and strain? How can you start a marriage built on lies? It is so heartbreaking as we work closely with these three men and desire to see them be godly Fathers and Husbands.

IMG_4849

It is rare in this culture to meet a married couple who have been together a long time. I know of two exceptions to this. One couple is the parents of two of our girls from the school who we hang out with often. This couple, who are in their mid 40s and late 30s respectively, have 8 living children and one who passed away when she was 4. This is not a blended family of previous marriages, all the children are their own, ranging in ages 1-23. It is such a joy to see them talk and help each other out. They still aren’t together as much as we would see in North America since this culture separates the sexes in most areas of life, but you can see the way they care for each other. It gives me hope that some marriages and commitments can still stand the test of time, even in a culture where marriages that last are not seen as a value.

As I have mentioned before, many of the girls in our school also struggle with child marriage. We have lost too many to marriage, some before they were even 16. Each time I have cried and wished there was more I could do.

Will you join us in praying that God will redeem marriage here in Niger, and in North America too!

 

 

The two girls on the outside both left school after the first year when they were married.

20110116-DSC01885

Raichatou- aged 15, getting ready for her first wedding. Since then she has divorced, been engaged again, and then left at the altar. She wants so desperately a fairytale life of love and marriage. Please pray for her.Raichatouwedding79

1 comment :

Di said...

Praying.... you are not alone in the battle my friend. Jesus, oh Jesus hear our cry....Amen